Chinese Firm Takes Over Bus Service, No Bid Needed

The Chinese-owned Global (Cambodia) Trade Development company takes over today as Phnom Penh’s new municipal bus operator, although City Hall said Tuesday that the company did not have to go through a bidding process to get the contract.

The creation of a permanent public bus system follows a successful one-month trial conducted by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which saw 42,000 passengers boarding daily buses along a single route on Monivong Boulevard.

But the decision to award the permanent contract to Global Trade Development, which since 2008 has operated Phnom Penh’s first metered taxi service, Global Taxi, did not end up going through a full bidding process, despite the tendered interest of several other companies.

“This was not a bidding process. City Hall made a selection [out of the companies that expressed interest] based upon our criteria, because we didn’t have enough of a budget to complete a full bidding process,” said City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche, declining to elaborate on the budgetary limitations.

“We selected the company due to the fact that the company [Global Trade Development] has experience operating metered taxis in the city and had been successful until now. That is why we accepted Global as the company to work on this project,” he said, adding that he believed the private company would build upon the trial service and ensure the bus system was a success.

The idea of a public bus service was in the works long before this year’s test run. In 2011, City Hall invited interested companies to submit proposals for operating the public bus service, and in January 2012, City Hall publicly announced that only four of the seven private companies that applied had qualified to move forward for the bidding process.

Those companies were India-based Ashok Leyland, Spanish company ABEFIS, South Korea-owned City Trans Cambodia and the eventual contract winner, Global (Cambodia) Trade Development.

In February 2013, City Hall announced that two companies had been selected to work together on the bus, the South Korean-owned City Trans Cambodia and Global Trade Development. Subsequently, the Chinese-owned company declined to collaborate and threatened to withdraw its bid. Then-governor Kep Chuktema said that the South Korean company would therefore be awarded the contract.

However, on Tuesday Mr. Dimanche said the contract had been awarded to Global Trade Development after all. He declined to say what had happened to the South Korean company’s bid.

“We are still discussing with the company the length of the contract,” Mr. Dimanche added.

Asked why there was no public announcement that the bidding process had been stopped, Mr. Dimanche declined to comment.

Lim Andre, CEO of Global (Cambodia) Trade Development, and Choi Dae Yong, managing director of City Trans Cambodia, could not be reached for comment.

JICA spokesman Egami Mashahiko said Tuesday that he did not know anything about Global Trade Development and the company had not been in contact with JICA about the trial’s transition to private operation.

“The handover to the private company is beyond JICA’s mandate and we have had no contact with them,” he said, adding that JICA had not been made aware of the conditions of the contract.

Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, said that the municipal government should be more open when it comes to the procurement of public services.

“Public offers need to be made through a public process. The government should always go through a public and transparent process to ensure that the public and the government get the best possible deal,” he said.

Another public service operator, Cintri, the private company in charge of Phnom Penh’s waste collection, signed a 50-year contract in 2002 to collect the city’s garbage, but has been regularly criticized since then for not meeting its obligations.

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